Pope Asks Catholics to be “Annoying”

I took a lot of acting classes and performed in many plays throughout high school and college. Looking back on my teenage and early adult years, acting was one of the greatest experiences of my life. One skill that was difficult to learn initially was leaving the familiar and comfortable to take chances discovering the character. In order to be successful on stage I had to embrace my character and all his quirks, mannerisms, and eccentricities and push aside any sense of self-consciousness or embarrassment.  My best performances resulted from breaking out of my comfort zone and doing things I would never regularly do but my character would.

Performance
Actors must give it everything they got for truly remarkable performances

Much like how I had to leave my comfort zone in acting, Pope Francis challenges all Catholics to leave their comfort zone in their spiritual life. The Catholic News Agency reported that in a homily, Pope Francis said:

“We can ask the Holy Spirit to give us all this apostolic fervor and to give us the grace to be annoying when things are too quiet in the Church,” he said at the chapel of the Saint Martha residence, where he lives.

The Pope preached on today’s first reading from Acts 22 and contrasted “backseat Christians” with those who have apostolic zeal.

“There are those who are well-mannered, who do everything well, but are unable to bring people to the Church through proclamation and apostolic zeal,” he stated.

The pontiff said apostolic zeal “implies an element of madness,” which he labeled as “healthy” and “spiritual.”

He added that it “can only be understood in an atmosphere of love” and that it is not an “enthusiasm for power and possession.”

The pope’s reference to “well-mannered” and “backseat” Christians echoed my thoughts about how we too often do the bare minimum our faith requires. And looking at the dramatic drop off in Mass attendance between Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, many people aren’t even meeting the minimal requirements. I noted how great of a statement Catholics could make to the world if people driving by a church on Sunday saw it filled to the brim with faithful Christians. What if the billion+ Catholics in the world expressed a loving enthusiasm for our faith every day in everything we do?

And yet, many of us (myself included) fall back into our pattern of living as “well-mannered” Catholics. Sure, we may go to Mass on Sunday and pray regularly but it’s in a very detached way from our regular lives. We don’t want to stir up controversy by proclaiming our faith in public. Raise your hand if you read a really interesting online article expressing a Catholic viewpoint but didn’t post it on your Facebook profile out of fear of causing trouble. Do you remain silent in a conversation when someone starts spouting off falsehoods or exaggerations of Church doctrine because you want to avoid conflict? Come on, be honest. I know I do that all the time, even with my own RosaryMeds articles. I sometimes refrain from sharing my own RosaryMeds articles on my personal timeline because I don’t want the headaches of defending my faith.

We all need role models and examples who we can teach us how to break the mold of the “comfortable Catholic.” Who in my life is an example of “apostolic zeal?” My mother-in-law comes to mind. She does not have two lives — a public one and a spiritual one. They are the same for her. For example, when something bad or good happens in her life, her immediate instinct is to say a prayer. And she doesn’t wait to be alone and pray silently, but will ask others to pray with her when the situation calls for it. That’s the sort of apostolic zeal the pope wants in all of us — to have that immediate gut instinct to publicly live as people of faith. It doesn’t need to be loud or bossy. It just needs to be ever-present in everything you do.

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

Christ teaching in the Temple

When I meditate on the Third Luminous Mystery of the holy rosary — Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion, I often ponder my own personal conversion. I think about ways I can live as a better Catholic and more faithfully follow Jesus’ teachings. But Pope Francis’ homily on living with “apostolic zeal” provides another way to view this mystery. In addition to your personal conversion, how about focusing on converting others? How can you help bring others closer to God’s loving grace? For those “backseat” Christians, maybe you can give them that little “push” whether it be inviting them to Mass (and not letting them hide in the back of the church), saying grace with them before meals, and just working in a little Catholic catechesis in conversations. It might be something as simple as, “I read this interesting article on RosaryMeds today that said…”

As for dealing with those openly hostile to the Catholic Faith, I understand that we all can’t be like St. Paul and stir up riots proclaiming God’s Word. But as I said before, pray for those who hate the Church. You will probably not be able to convert someone’s heart and mind through idle conversation regardless of how many facts or well-reasoned arguments you present. But the Holy Spirit can work miracles and touch people in ways words cannot. But you need to condition yourself to pray for people like this because praying for those who hate you doesn’t come naturally to many of us.

I will leave you with this to ponder.  If you think the Catholic Church and this world is perfect as-is, then there is no need for us behave differently.  But if you think this would could use a little improvement then it needs to start with each one of us making little changes in our lives.  Are you ready to break out of your spiritual comfort zone to make those changes a reality?

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Can You “Unplug” This Lent?

Can you settle down for just one minute?  Seriously, how long can you go without feeling like you need to do some sort of activity?  I don’t know about you, but I feel like I always have to do something.  I feel anxious if I’m “unplugged” and not checking email, Facebook, and news feeds.  I become bored easily without my cell phone, computer, magazines, books, and television.  Fortunately, I have access to all sorts of media almost 24/7.  But is that a good thing?  The Catholic News Agency reported Pope Benedict’s words during a general audience of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square:

“Interior and exterior silence are necessary in order to hear that Word,” and yet, “our age does not, in fact, favor reflection and contemplation,” the Pope said March 7. On the contrary, “it seems that people are afraid to detach themselves, even for an instant, from the spate of words and images which mark and fill our days.”

John Longanecker talking on a phone after eati...

The Pope’s words make so much sense to me particularly during this season of Lent.  We tend to fill our lives consuming so much media and information that we do develop a fear of detachment from our technology.  We feel lost without our gadgets.  And while we don’t truly believe that our gadgets replace God, we sure sometimes act like they do.  We get so worked up over an almost-dead cell phone battery or the internet acting sluggish.  We can all probably think of times when we felt angry over missing a favorite TV show.  And yet many times we don’t feel the slightest bit of anxiety over the sins we commit or not regularly receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  We often have no worries about overlooking routine prayer and meditating on our relationship with the Lord.  We spend so much time staying up to date with what our friends are up to and what goes on in the world, but often don’t take the time to check our status with God through reflection and contemplation.

The pope’s words remind me of the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary — The Assumption of Mary.  Mary was assumed into Heaven and now acts as our guide on our journey to God’s heavenly kingdom.  In asking for silence and meditation, the Pope echos Mary’s call to fasting and prayer.  Fasting from food is a physical reminder that true happiness does not come from just satisfying our earthly needs.  When we fast, we show ourselves that it’s not what the world offers that will ultimately make us happy.  We push aside, even for just a little while, satisfying our physical desires so that we can concentrate on satisfying our spiritual needs.  But we can fast from things other than food.  We can fast from whatever prevents us from meditating and focusing on our relationship with God.  As you probably guessed already, perhaps we need to fast from our computers, cell phones, and televisions.  Lent may be half over, but we can all still find a little time to “unplug” as the Pope suggests.

pope and me
pope and me (Photo credit: BoFax)

In this time of Lent, really challenge yourself to ask what separates you from fully receiving God’s grace.  Conduct an examination of conscience and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  But avoiding sin and receiving absolution only gets you half way there.  Think about an athlete in training.  An athlete needs to do more than just avoid a bad diet.  He needs to focus on physical conditioning and perfecting his technique.  Likewise, we need to be more than “not bad people.”  We should take some time this Lent to focus and concentrate on how to best live as one of Jesus’ disciples and show the power and glory of God in this world.  Lets take up the Pope’s challenge to unplug and focus on how we can best serve the Lord.  Because now, more than ever, the world needs to see God’s love and glory by us living our faith.  We need to prioritize and show the world that our faith is more important than TV and the internet.

And yes, I understand the irony of me posting an article on the internet discussing how we need to unplug ourselves from the internet.

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Take a Break, Pray the Rosary

As we continue through October, rosary month, I want to pass along this article from the Catholic News Agency. Archbishop of Argentina, Jose Luis Mollaghan of Rosario, said that in praying the rosary we “can find a respite for their hurried lives and a source of true peace for every person and family.” I know many of us do not usually think of prayer as a break but only one more obligation or inconvenience in our lives. But as October ends we should make a renewed effort to integrate prayer, especially the rosary, into our daily routine. Not only will it make us more spiritually fit, but it also provides a source of peace.

Hymnal and Rosary
Image by Quiplash! via Flickr

As we continue through October, rosary month, I want to pass along this article from the Catholic News Agency.  Archbishop of Argentina, Jose Luis Mollaghan of Rosario, said that in praying the rosary we “can find a respite for their hurried lives and a source of true peace for every person and family.”  I know many of us do not usually think of prayer as a break but only one more obligation or inconvenience in our lives.  But as October ends we should make a renewed effort to integrate prayer, especially the rosary, into our daily routine.  Not only will it make us more spiritually fit, but it also provides a source of peace.

When we pray we acknowledge that there is something more to our existence that what we see around us.  Prayer connects us with something far greater than what we see on television, hear on the radio, and see around us.  It offers us comfort knowing that everything in this world will one day end and we can make a new start in God’s kingdom of Heaven.  All our suffering, worries, fears, and anxiety will no longer exist one day.  Prayer keeps us centered on what’s really important — our eternal souls.  Without consistent prayer we can become so consumed by our day-to-day fears and worries that we go into a downward spiral where our happiness is solely determined by the physical world, not God’s grace and love.  As October ends, try to make time to pray the rosary so that you can experience a lasting happiness that cannot be sold to you in any shop, advertised on any billboard, nor taken away from you by anyone.

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